Auckland, January 13, 2020
National Party has said that the government should ignore advice from Iran and not pick a side in its conflict with the United States of America.
Iran’s embassy in Wellington told RNZ that New Zealand should come out against the “wrong approach” of the Trump administration.
It called on New Zealand to promote peace and security in the Middle East after it fired rockets on US bases in Iraq.
National’s Defence Spokesperson Mark Mitchell said that the government should remain independent.
“We are not up there to take advice or directions from Iran. What we would is that … we welcome the fact they are engaging with the US and using diplomatic channels to try to resolve the tension,” he said.
No distraction please
He was happy that US President Donald Trump had reported a stay in conflict but said New Zealand should not be distracted from its purpose in the Middle East.
“We should be pleased that there is a return to diplomatic channels and that is going to be the best way to resolve this. In terms of our role in Iraq is that all the coalition and the Iraqi government need to remain focused and not distracted on the fact that the reason why we made this significant commitment was to defeat ISIS and make sure they didn’t come back. Not only were they a threat to the region, they were a global threat. And although most of the work has been done … if the coalition was to leave then in my experience in Iraq then it would create a vacuum where there is a real risk that ISIS would come back,” Mr Mitchell said.
When asked about the Iraqi government’s request that foreign military leave the country, Mitchell said, “The Iraqi government has passed a resolution … there are more democratic processes that they have to go through in terms of passing legislation … I hope that calmer heads would prevail and that there would be a reset and they would get their focus back on the fact that ISIS is the real threat … and let Iran and the US work through diplomatic channels in resolving those issues.
“All that I would say is that … we should be very clear that our expectation is that (the Iraqi government) do everything they can to maintain security, especially around coalition bases to prevent any type of direct or indirect fire attack.”
The government and the New Zealand Defence Force have both refused be interviewed on the situation in the Middle East.
Iran’s call to New Zealand
Iran’s embassy in Wellington has on New Zealand to promote peace and security in the Middle East after rockets fell on US bases in Iraq this afternoon.
The US Department of Defence confirmed that Iran launched more than a dozen rockets against the US military facilities of al-Asad base in western Iraq and Erbil in the north.
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said that New Zealand personnel in Iraq were as safe they could be – but added he was deeply concerned.
Video circulating on Iranian state media showed the moment a volley of missiles apparently landed on the large al-Asad base.
Not long afterwards, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard claimed credit for the attack, which it said was revenge for the killing of its general Qassem Soleimani by the “Great Satan” America.
It contained a warning to allies of the US, too, stating that any nations aiding the American mission could be targeted.
New Zealand has around 45 personnel currently stationed at Camp Taji on the outskirts of Baghdad.
Relations not affected
The Iranian embassy in Wellington released a statement to RNZ which said the latest events would not negatively affect friendly relations between New Zealand and Iran.
“We expect New Zealand, as an influential member of the international community, to once again use its international position in reacting to this wrong approach to have peace and security in the Middle East and the world.”
But the statement had a warning for all foreign forces in the Middle East.
“We hope that the international community will play its role in modifying the unlawful actions of some foreign powers in the region and prevent any unintended occurrence. Otherwise, serious damage will affect all international and domestic players involved.”
Published under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz. Read related story, ‘Tension eases as US, Iran restrain forces’ under Businesslink.
National Party Defence Spokesperson Mark Mitchell (RNZ Photo by Dan Cook)